With unemployment at its highest levels in more than a decade, Bay Area food banks are facing an unprecedented demand for services, exploding tenfold almost overnight at some sites.
Berkeley Lab scientists have sprung into action, marshaling their colleagues to help meet the demand for food.
“We’ve formed teams to support local food banks, which provide an essential service to the community during these most trying times, and also to engage in a little good-natured competition with colleagues,” said Trent Northen, a senior scientist in the Integrative Genomics Building (IGB). Northen has been working with David Gilbert, the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s senior manager for communications and outreach, to encourage the formation of Biosciences teams in addition to the IGB team.
Gilbert enlisted the aid of Lida Gifford, Biosciences’ lead communications coordinator, in this effort. She became the captain of a Biosciences at Berkeley team (for Biosciences staff in all other buildings on the Hill, on campus, and Aquatic Park) and recruited Nicholas Everson, operations deputy at Emery Station East, to establish a third team. All teams are raising funds for local food banks Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano (FBCCS) or the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB).
“In these challenging times, many staff have asked what they can do in support of the response to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Gilbert. “This is an easy and fun way to meet the great need that our communities are facing and are likely to continue facing for a while.”
Biosciences has also taken the next step by spreading the word to other areas and divisions and sharing how to set up food bank fundraising teams. To date, ALS, Computing Sciences, and the Molecular Foundry have joined in with teams of their own. The teams are tracking their progress on the food banks’ team sites, which feature the naming convention DivisionName@BerkeleyLab.
The race is on. So far, IGB is leading, with more than $5,500 raised for FBCCS, Biosciences at Berkeley is in second, having raised more than $4,500 for FBCCS, and ALS and Emery Station East are vying for third place with over $3,000 raised for FBCCS and ACCFB respectively. In fact, the IGB team is currently among the top three teams in the Bay Area raising funds for FBCCS. Altogether, the teams have raised more than $19,000 for the two organizations’ food drives.
The hunger crisis is only expected to intensify, with the Bay Area expected to lose 835,000 jobs by May. Those interested in supporting the food drives can do so via the teams’ food bank team links. To learn how to set up a food bank fundraising team for your division, contact Trent Northen at TRNorthen@lbl.gov. View a larger list of community support and volunteering opportunities at Berkeley Lab’s COVID-19 portal.